Once again Oregon is going through the sausage-making process of redisticting the state’s legislative and congressional districts. Sausage-making is never pretty.
This year’s redistricting process brings to light two political altruisms: number one: to the victor go the spoils; and number two, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. The Democrats hold supermajorities in both houses of the state legislature, they were always in the driver’s seat regarding redrawing state House, state Senate and U.S. House district boundaries.
A group of former Republican lawmakers have filed a lawsuit to block the “egregious partisan gerrymander” redistricting they consider illegal.
At a time when everything is up for debate, when some are ready to litigate to stop what they don’t like and those on the other side have votes on their side.
There is nothing more political than redistricting—one party or the other can secure legislative and congressional seats for a decade or more.
It is exactly these battles that turn the average citizen off of politics and government. The people should trust that the playing field is level and fair for all. When one party is in control, such as this year, the process gets twisted—counties and cities are split between districts. That kind of redistricting does not serve the people.
It is time to take the redistricting process out of the hands of politicians and place it in the hands of an independent commission.
A commission should be comprised of academics, citizens and non-partisans—effectively a commission whose members will not benefit by how district lines are draw. The commission should be appointed by the state Supreme Court who would have to give the final sign off of any final redistricting.
Districts drawn by such a commission would be more equitable, ending the era of safe seats for any party. Elections should not be coronations, instead they should be the result of sober, sane campaigns debating ideas. There are conservative parts of the state just as there are liberal parts of the state. Oregon’s voters are generally centrists. If a party wants to win a district historically won by the opposing party, fair and balanced redistricting will level the field, if the parties run candidates palatable to voters.
The future of Oregon depends on all sides working toward the goals of improved quality of life for all and a successful business climate. Oregon worked best when the legsilature was evenly divided—lawmakers had no choice but to comprise.
Redisticting by an independent commission would be a big step toward returning common sense to the legislature.